I used to think that being anxious was just a part of my personality, that it was a flaw in who I was and I would never be able to get away from it. I thought I would eventually grow out of it, but it never happened.
It wasn’t until I came to college that I realized anxiety was a real mental illness. I’ve had anxiety since I was really young, maybe eight or nine. When I learned more about anxiety and anxiety attacks, it was like I woke up and realized that so much of what I felt was because of anxiety and that it was normal. Growing up, I placed a lot of blame on my lack of confidence and negative thoughts. While it’s close to the truth (my self-esteem wasn’t very high in high school), so much of that stemmed from my anxious brain.
Learning more about anxiety helped me start to recognize the signs of it, ones that I had never realized came from being anxious. For example, not being able to stop thinking or obsessing over one thing, or thinking back on something I said or did over and over again, feeling guilty about it. How my throat closes up and it becomes hard to breathe when I can’t stop thinking about how I’m not doing enough. How sometimes I feel like I can’t speak.
I have generalized anxiety disorder. I’m sure I’ve had this almost my whole life, but it’s okay. I know how to deal with it so much better now because I understand more of what means for me, why I feel the way I do. Learning more about mental illnesses made me so much more aware of what I feel and why, and what others feel and why they sometimes act the way they do.
My confidence has grown considerably and I like to think that my ten-year-old self would be extremely proud of who I’ve become and what I’ve become, even the smallest fears like calling people on the phone and introducing myself to people. Giving a name to the nonstop thoughts and worries has also made me more confident, and I’ve taught myself to try and shut down any negative thoughts, especially ones that have to do with my abilities or how I look.
In the past three years, I changed a lot. Every year has been such a different time of growth, and I will always be thankful for that. I can’t wait to see how I conquer any fears I have left.
If you think you’re showing signs of struggling mentally, research it. Go to a therapist and talk about what you’re thinking and feeling and listen to what they say. Knowing more means being more in control.